Retinal ganglion cell examination with Optical Coherence Tomography reflects physiological and pathological changes in the eye and the brain

Abstract: The retinal ganglion cell is situated in the inner retina and its axons, composing the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL), leave the eye to form the optic nerve. These cells develop embryologically from the forebrain and later during development re-establish connections with different parts of the brain serving different purposes. This unique position and connections make it possible to be investigated with different methods. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is an accessible and easily operated clinical device that can provide a detailed image of this layer at a few micrometers level of precision in measurements. In this thesis we aimed to see whether examining these cells with OCT could reflect physiological and pathological changes in the eye and brain.In cases of optic neuritis (Paper I), the OCT examination showed early thickening of the peripapillary (pRNFL) followed by thinning which takes 6-9 months to reduce to below normal thickness without the ability to distinguish between the real from pseudo thinning. The ganglion cell -inner plexiform layer (GCL-IPL) layer, however, showed a thickness reduction within a few weeks to 3 months without pseudo thinning.         In cases of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) (Paper II), the GCL-IPL remained unchanged and there was no difference in pRNFL thickness compared to healthy controls, whereas  the optic disc parameters of rim thickness, rim area, cup volume and cup/disc ratio differed significantly (P<0.05).In cases of benign multiple sclerosis (Paper IV), the OCT could detect that eyes which are not affected by optic neuritis had an annual thinning rate of the RNFL and GCL-IPL similar to a healthy population (P>0.05) which may indicate the benign course of the disease.       In cases of physiological factors affecting the GCL in healthy population (Paper III) the OCT examination showed that there was a significant thinning rate of the layer with age (P<0.05), but the thinning was not significant when sex and axial length of the eye were taken into consideration. Males had a thicker GCL volume than females and with age a significant reduction in GCL volume was noted in females but not in males. A Longer axial length of the eye found to be associated with thinner GCL volume.     In conclusion retinal ganglion cell changes detected with OCT can reflect physiological and pathological changes in the eye and brain.   

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